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Your Guide to English Proficiency Assessment during Hiring

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28 February, 2023

English is one of the most common modes of communication in today’s business world. With many developed countries in the world with native language as English businesses increasing their global footprint, it has become essential to quantify the English-speaking skills of candidates before hiring. Various companies hold English proficiency tests to screen candidates with a better command of English.

Besides, having an outstanding knowledge of English has become essential for career advancement. Proficiency in the language has also made it a crucial part of success in the highly competitive corporate world.

English language in this digital era is one of the factors that affect an organization's success, especially when merged with other fields such as technology, engineering, finance, sales, marketing, etc.  The rising trend of live chats is one of the major factors to prioritize high typing speed and typing accuracy in English for customer support professionals.

In recent years, organizations have invested a good amount of amount in English learning language. However, the complaint that employers have is that there is a minute gap between the English language skills they require and the skills that a candidate possesses:

  • 67% of employers have an English language skills gap in countries where English is not their official language.
  • Almost 22% of employers hold an English language skills gap in English-speaking countries.

The measure of the English language skills gap depicts the prevalence of English language holds in industries, organizations, and at superior levels. English is now an essential language of communication to succeed and progress in the workplace.

Most organizations are adapting and digitally transforming their business to meet the increasing expectations of customers. According to the research conducted by Super Office, “Live chat is expected to increase by as much as 87% in the next 12-18 months. Mostly, English is one of the preferred languages of communication amongst customers in live chat.”

It is vital to have employees in organizations who are proficient in English, as most of the communication that happens with the client via emails, calls, reports, or presentations is mostly dependent on English.


Challenges with English Proficiency Assessments During Hiring

Businesses run into various challenges during their hiring process, from unconscious bias seeping in to assessing on multiple factors at the same time. Here are a few:

1. Bias

The chances of the results being biased towards a non-native speaker are high leading to unfair decisions. In any interview conducted in English, linguistic bias can be directed towards speakers of other languages or dialects or bilingual speakers resulting in biased decisions towards candidates from linguistic backgrounds.

2. Cultural Influence

Language is not just a means of communication but also a reflection of one’s culture. A candidate's culture can impact their comprehension of phrases and context-specific language use when attempting the test. For example, an idiom that is used in one culture may not make sense to a person from another cultural background.

This in turn can lead to unfair results of the assessment. Hence, it is vital that context-specific languages are used that are relevant and easily comprehended across cultures.

3. Limited Scope

A test that contains questions related to a business scenario can help organizations evaluate their responses through English speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills. However, it would not give businesses an exact measure of an individual’s ability to communicate effectively in real-world business situations. There are various generic tests to gauge a candidate’s English proficiency, but the questions provided in those assessments are not as per the business needs.

4. Lack of business application

Most English proficiency tests are focused on MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions) and written responses to scenario-based questions. However, this does not help stimulate actual communication with the employee, which means relying completely on the writing and reading skills of a candidate can lead to wrong hiring decisions for specific job roles.

5. High cost of recognized tests

Some internationally recognized tests could be costly for various job applicants, which in turn could make businesses lose out on good candidates. The fees for every English test differ from country to country. English tests like IELTS or TOEFL or PTE are expensive for every candidate to afford. Good candidates can get screened out from a job role as they do not have an English score to present to the organization.

6. Lack of standardization

There are many standard English proficiency tests provided by renowned organizations. However, those tests lack basic technology facilities like proctoring or cheating prevention and candidate ID verification. Moreover, these standardized tests are more prevalent in education or academic purposes rather than adapting to the unique needs of businesses. These standardized tests are predominantly created to understand the knowledge of the English language rather than making the test suitable for business situations.


Why Pre-Employment English Proficiency Tests are Crucial for Organizations

Assessing candidates' proficiency in the English language is now one of the mandatory criteria of the selection process. Pre-employment English assessments are conducted to help understand candidates' performance and skills in various aspects of the English language.

A well-designed test that is validated, reliable, and objective is essential to assess candidates. According to the report of Talent Board Candidate Experience research, “82% of companies are using some form of pre-employment assessment.” Conducting an English Proficiency test will help you understand the level of a candidate’s English proficiency.

There are four methods of determining the competency of a candidate with an English proficiency test:

1. Reading: Evaluating their reading skills will help you understand how well they comprehend any given form of information whether verbally or written.

2. Writing: It is to determine a candidate's writing ability as to how well they draft structured emails, reports, memos, and presentations as required by an organization.

3. Speaking: To see their communication ability and how effectively they put across their thought to peers, managers, and customers in English.

4. Listening: This will help you evaluate whether a candidate can pick the flaws or the loopholes of any project by listening to it keenly.


Different Levels of English Proficiency

Before determining the English proficiency of a candidate, it is important to evaluate the level of proficiency required for the role you are hiring followed by an appropriate test.

Mostly these English assessments are based on the globally accepted CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) standard, which stands for Common European Framework of Reference for Language and is globally recognized to measure a candidate's fluency in English. There are 6 distinct levels of proficiency, which are commonly accepted as the benchmark for language proficiency globally.

Herein are the following stages:

1. A1: comes under the category of beginner or basic wherein here it is gauged whether a candidate can comprehend simple sentences with everyday use of expressions and phrases, ask basic questions, and interact with others clearly.

This level is usually for the ones who do not require much use of English in their workspace or job role.

2. A2: comes under the category of elementary wherein this enables a candidate with a little more freedom. This involves exchanging basic details, comprehending and following the given instructions and talking about some common topics such as food, family, etc.

This level is sufficient if the candidate is not required to communicate with the client.

3. B1: This level is lower intermediate where it evaluates a candidate's ability of basic grammar, sentence construction, listening, writing, and reading skills. It assesses how well a candidate deals with the workplace situation and expresses events and experiences when required.

4. B2: This level is upper intermediate where comprehending topics of a complex technical text or verbal communication is required considering their field of expertise. Fluency when interacting with native English speakers is assessed by how well one does with pronunciations and expresses their opinions and ideas freely.

5. C1: This is an operational fluency wherein a candidate should be competent to deal with any workplace situation. This mostly involves candidates being able to express their ideas clearly to a client or in a crowd of employees. They should be able to grasp foreign accents without any hindrances and revert with clear responses on the same to maintain a smooth flow of communication.

6. C2: This is the last level which is that of a native English speaker. This level of candidates is very proficient in English and pose the ability to express themselves fluently and with correct enunciation in front of a crowd. They have the ability to comprehend complex sentences with ease and get a brief information from many different resources.


Benefits Of English Proficiency Assessment During Hiring

A language test gives you an exact picture of a candidate's skill set and can simplify the recruitment procedure. Measure every job applicant objectively is vital that can be done with a standardized English proficiency test which will show data that tells the candidate's English level proficiency.

Filter out the right candidates with the required English proficiency level as per your business standards with an English proficiency assessment.

1. Effective customer communication with email, reports, calls and presentation

Understandable and effective communication with customers, colleagues, board members, and executives is vital to create a fulfilling work environment. According to the report by Salesforce, “86% of executives believe ineffective communication amongst customers and clients is the major reason for businesses failure.”

Good command of English helps you improve connections with global clients and stakeholders. It contributes to smooth communication within or outside the organization with people from diverse backgrounds.

2. Hiring for specific roles

CS roles are mostly focused on dealing with English-speaking customers. However, there might be instances where the customer might not be English speaking native. But it is important to understand the customer’s problem regardless of their accent and provide a solution to give satisfying customer service. Hence, it is vital for employees to understand a customer’s dialect whether it be Dutch, German, or British to achieve an elevated level of customer satisfaction.

3. Evaluate the language skills of your candidates

Mostly all business communications are handled in English. The communication could be in a written or verbal form due to which it is essential to understand the proficiency level of a candidate, whether it is B2 or C1 level of proficiency. Employees with a good proficiency level in English will be able to communicate their business needs effectively which would result in better branding of the organization.

4. Quick elimination

It is easy for candidates to create a resume with good English as they might get it reviewed by an expert. However, just looking at their resume will not help you decide their proficiency level in English. Hence, conducting an English assessment will help you eliminate unsuitable candidates, making it easier to recruit top talent.

Assessing language proficiency during campus hiring helps businesses decide the communication abilities of the employees in the workforce. The four modes of English on which they are evaluated, define internal and external cooperation and communication. The better the English skills of a candidate, the easier it is for them to comprehend and solve a business situation, whether with a customer or client.


Why You Should Use iMocha’s AI-EnglishPro during Hiring

iMocha's AI-EnglishPro can help you make smarter talent decisions as it helps in saving time for evaluating the English proficiency of talent using skill data-driven innovation. It saves recruiters time as AI processes and evaluates holistic Business English skills in all four aspects – listening, speaking, writing, and reading.

AI-EnglishPro contains questions that will help organizations assess candidates' responses to a business scenario, wherein it also helps in setting focused training programs for upskilling. Not just this, customized assessments are also offered depending upon an industry or organization’s needs and background.

Overcome the hassles of assessing candidates’ Business English proficiency with iMocha’s AI-EnglishPro.  

1. iMocha's AI-EnglishPro saves organizations time

60% of the time is saved with the use of iMocha’s AI-EnglishPro during hiring because of its AI-driven innovation. Dependency on subject experts to evaluate Business English skills delays the assessment process because manual evaluation consumes immense time and effort. With an AI-powered tool, candidates who do not meet the minimum English proficiency criteria are automatically filtered during report generation. It reduces the training time of new hires and also contributes to the increase in employee retention. The technology automatically evaluates the candidates qualified once the report is generated. Organizations can save the time of creating assessments or validating any questions for the assessments.

2. iMocha's AI-EnglishPro provides customized tests for every industry’s needs and business goals

Each business requires a different scenario type to assess a candidate's business English proficiency. iMocha's AI-EnglishPro has a team of highly qualified subject matter experts working on customizing questions and completing assessments as per every organization's unique requirement. These customized assessments can report skill levels across diverse educational backgrounds as well as domains.

3. iMocha's AI-English Pro helps organizations identify their training needs and reduce business risks

It will get you a report of employees who need focused training, which in turn helps in more targeted development programs for employees in the organization. Organizations don’t need to have a training program for each employee but only for those who are weak in specific areas and similar is the case for upskilling.

4. iMocha’s AI-English Pro saves organizations’ cost

Organizations don’t need to invest in every employee training program as the report generated of each employee will help them evaluate the weakness of each employee and accordingly invest in the training program for the ones who require it the most. Similarly, it will help organizations save costs on the upskilling program too. It will also cut the cost of bad hires for organizations as it will screen out the unqualified candidates that are not suitable to face customers effectively for a specific role, as per industry requirements.


Smoother hiring for business English skills with iMocha 

Businesses around the world are looking for skills that go beyond academic qualifications and work experience. They need talent with business English proficiency, and which is why they must quantify business English skills that are in high demand in many areas of work today.

It’s no secret that a common language means work gets done faster. By quantifying business English proficiency in candidates, businesses can make sure that new hires can understand and communicate with one another, as well as customers, to keep smooth running of the process.

iMocha AI-EnglishPro can help your HR leaders and recruiters see in-depth reports on the business English skills of a candidate, standardize English skills in an organization and set a cut of score for hire. iMocha AI-EnglishPro is a holistic CEFR-based business English skill assessment solution. For more information, check out our website.

Tanvi Sharma
Tanvi Sharma
Tanvi Sharma is a Content Strategist at iMocha. A seasoned marketer and branding consultant, she likes sewing stories together to help brands find their true and unique voice. A perfection enthusiast, she believes each and every word should serve a purpose while writing. When she’s not writing for work, she is writing fan fictions and theories, and volunteering at local animal shelters.
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